Revolution, Modernity and Social Change

University of Glasgow

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Revolution, Modernity and Social Change

  • Host University

    University of Glasgow

  • Location

    Glasgow, Scotland

  • Area of Study

    Anthropology, Sociology

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Prerequisites

    Entry to Honours Sociology requires a grade point average of Grade C in Sociology 2A and Sociology 2B as a first attempt.

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • Scotcat Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Short Description
    The contemporary relevance of revolution has been demonstrated on many occasions over the last 20 years alone, most notably in Eastern Europe (1989-91) the Middle East/North Africa (2011-2013) and now in the Ukraine (2013-). This course will provide students with the conceptual and theoretical apparatus to explain the sociological basis of modern revolutions, allowing them to explore the deeper causal mechanisms beneath the often superficial media discussions of events. More generally, it will encourage students to distinguish between those revolutions which are essentially political and leave existing structures intact, and those which are essentially social and which either initiate or consolidate a more fundamental process of social change. One of the main themes of the course is the spatial dimension of revolutionary movements: the extent to which these can become regional or international phenomena rather than being confined to the territory of a single nation-state.
    The first five lectures will revisit some key sociological thinkers, but specifically in relation to the particular aspects of their work dealing with revolution. Figures dealt with this in context will include Machiavelli, Harrington, Hobbes, Locke, Paine, Burke, Tocqueville, Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Gramsci and Benjamin. This will provide a context for reviewing more recent debates in the historical sociology of revolution. The second five lectures will deal with the structural components of different types of revolution, including the Scottish experience as a case study in bourgeois revolution, and how these can be recognised from the varieties of social forces, organisational forms and political outcomes which they involve.
    The course will be global in reach, in that it discusses the differences between revolutions in the developed and underdeveloped worlds, most importantly the way in which, from the Twentieth Century at least, the former appeared to fail while the latter succeeded. One theme which emerges from this will be the changes which occurred in Marxism during its journey East, in the work of Mao, Guevara, Cabral et al, but also the way in which Marxism itself has been overtaken there, by Islamist or simply 'democratic' ideologies, some of which-particularly in Latin America-look back to the bourgeois revolutions of the Nineteenth century ('Bolivarism') for inspiration. Finally the course will look at the question of whether social revolution is still possible anywhere on the globe under contemporary conditions of neoliberal globalisation.
    Course Aims:
    By the end of the course, Students should have acquired an understanding of:
    • the different theories of revolution (and counter-revolution) associated with classical sociology and social theory more generally;
    • how these theories were themselves responses to the periods of revolution and counter-revolution in which they emerged, from Harrington and the English Revolution onwards;
    • the relationship between theories of revolution and related theories of class structure and socio-economic development; and
    • key contemporary debates concerning the nature of revolutions
    By the end of this course students will be able to:
    • distinguish between different types of revolution (political, democratic, social) and the subdivisions within the latter category (feudal, bourgeois, socialist, etc.);
    • evaluate the explanatory power of different theories; and
    • use these theories to analyse the sociological and spatial basis of both historical and contemporary revolutionary events.
    A 4000 word essay chosen from a selection of topics.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.

ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) credits are converted to semester credits/quarter units differently among U.S. universities. Students should confirm the conversion scale used at their home university when determining credit transfer.

Please note that some courses with locals have recommended prerequisite courses. It is the student's responsibility to consult any recommended prerequisites prior to enrolling in their course.


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